MY FIRST CONFERENCE TALK was a keynote—by accident.

I’d prepared a deeply technical talk on web performance, heavy on the “how” of image and markup optimizations. I’d designed and timed my slides, gathered feedback from coworkers, and practiced over and over. I was nervous about going onstage and having a spotlight shining on me, but I was confident my information was accurate and helpful to a technical audience.

Days before the conference, I took a look at the schedule and realized I was slotted into the opening talk—the keynote, a spot intended to inspire a much more general audience than the one I’d planned on. Whoops. I tried to revamp my slides to be more approachable and to end with a bigger kick.

But that was just the ...

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